Archive | November, 2017

The Long-Weekend of Giving Thanks

30 Nov

Throwback Thursday….


Thanksgiving is a great American holiday…you get to stuff your face without judgement and exchange “I’m thankful for you” sentiments with your close family and friends.

I kicked my Thanksgiving weekend off with some pre-festivities (yay for friendship!) — girls I’m extremely thankful for: Helen and Katie. We started off the night as scientists, rationing out gummy bears between the three of us for the next day, then heading to a restaurant named Cantina, which apparently, is pretty basic because “it just can’t even.” When we arrived, the sign (which I’m assuming was supposed to scroll and say “Cantina”) just kept flashing in big, bold letters “CANT CANT CANT CANT” Pretty hilarious…and somehow discouraging.   Helen and I really acknowledged that we were overstayers.  Even with our bladders, waiting until really have to pee.  “You could say we’re mind over bladder.” – Bella

The next day, Katie and I were headed to Findley Lake to spend Thanksgiving with my family. Why separate a friendsgiving and a family Thanksgiving when you can have both at the same time.  Genius.

In true holiday fashion, Katie and I were half an hour late for her rental car pick-up appointment, and the guy working at the counter told us that they had a whopping 75 reservations for the weekend and that ours was probably canceled due to our tardiness. Now, if this had been during Christmas, I would’ve expected a Hallmark movie situation where our reservation got canceled, we had to flag down some unrealistically attractive trucker who would haul us to Findley Lake, and despite initially hating each other, we would somehow fall in love on the road and he would show me the true meaning of Christmas. Sorry Ben.  Well, it was Thanksgiving, so luckily our reservation wasn’t canceled, and also I’m more of a Hanukkah girl myself, so joke’s on Hallmark.

So we get her a rental car (she was driving up later) and as I’m speeding down the highway (I mean…driving the speed limit down the highway), I realize the passenger door of my car is slightly open. I signal to Katie (which is just the regular way you signal to another car) that I’m going to pull over, and she pulls up right beside me. Without saying one word she just rolls down her window, and opens and shuts my door for me. Talk about being aware of your surroundings, am I right?



Holiday pics from my old phone…#NoFilter



Findley Lake extravaganza


So Katie and I part ways and Ben joins me and, instead of laughing until I cry which is what had just been happening, we fight literally the entire way there until we walk in the door.  Would it be an American Thanksgiving without tension?  Anyway, we arrive at Findley Lake, and the decor is superb as usual. My parents’ decorations were so well thought out that there was even a bouquet of flowers in the shower. So beautiful.

As people started filtering in, it was really great to see everyone, especially my aunt Betsy and Uncle Marvin. Not all of my family was there, but one of the highlights was most definitely talking to my 13-year-old cousin on the phone who told me that I was really fun to talk to. Yes, that’s right.  I’m hip. I’m cool. That was a major point of conversation that night…although I was the only one talking about it.

And what’s a family/friendsgiving without games? Because someone was going to be left with dish duty (and it was probably going to be me), my aunt Betsy and I decided that everyone should use the same glass pretty much all weekend to cut down on the amount of dishes that were going to inevitably pile up. In order to designate people’s glasses, my aunt and I decided to put colored rubber bands on the glasses to distinguish glasses. But our need for functionality soon took a turn for the weird, because we made it into a game and went a little overboard with the rubber bands. We got really into matching the colors, twisting rubber bands together, putting way too many rubber bands on each glass until was it more rubber than glass?! Is this what the pilgrims used to do for fun?

Another great game we started playing was “Name 5,” to which Alex, when told the name of the game, responded with “Name 5?! I’ll name 10!” Truly, Alex should have won the game with just that statement.

Beyond laughing until I cried all night with friends and family, I also enjoyed our dinner table conversations. Since I had my friends at the dinner, my family was complimenting them (or rather…me on choosing them), saying that I have really good taste when it comes to picking friends. I credited my mom because she would always tell me how great I was at picking friends (shoutout to all my peeps!!). I thought that because she encouraged me in picking friends, I eventually just became really great at it (because my friends are cream of the crop, as you all know). My mom, however, dispelled my theory saying that she thinks I became good at picking friends because she taught me how to make good choices in general.

She told stories of how she would always make me practice making choices by letting me choose between a few things whenever I needed to make a decision. She said it was really important that I had things to choose from from the start so that I would eventually grow into making good choices. Once she offered that theory, I thought hey…that makes a lot of sense. Either way, I’m going to go ahead and credit my mom. Thanks mom! You’re the original pal.

Games, dinner, laughter…all that was missing was a movie. By the end of the night, we sat down to watch the movie Gifted. There was one scene where the characters were depressed so they went to a hospital to watch parents’ reactions once their babies were born, and it was the first time Ben had laughed until he cried (it wasn’t supposed to be funny but I was beaming anyway).


One of the best Thanksgivings to go down in history. I wouldn’t be surprised if they teach about it in school, kids.





The next day, Andrew and Brian stopped by for leftovers. We finished the “weekend” off with a wonderful yoga class led by my mom, so it was one of the best leftovers-givings I’ve ever had. With the Thanksgiving weekend becoming nothing but a memory and a food baby in my stomach, Ben’s birthday weekend officially commenced. We headed to Harrisburg, but stopped in Penn State for dinner first where Bens motor skills cracked me up.

Because he wasn’t really sure where he wanted to go and didn’t really have a preference, I took the lead on the trip destination and combined his birthday trip with a dream trip of mine, which was to visit Harrisburg– or as no one calls it: The Burg. But they should call it that. They really should.

Anyways, I had never been to Harrisburg even though it’s the state capital of Pennsylvania so I was really excited to go for the very first time. It was everything I dreamt it would be. It has amazing wide streets, it’s super clean…they even have multi-tiered street lamps… It almost kind of felt like we were in DC. The capitol building was lit up purple at night; the moon was huge and hanging beautifully above the purple capitol, and it was so beautiful. The senators have parking spots right in front of the capital building.

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The ‘burgh.


There was also a restaurant named Sammy’s, so it seemed like fate that I we ended up there. Of course we were too full from leftover-giving to eat anything but it was still neat.  The city also had one of the cutest train stations I’ve ever seen. It was pretty empty–there was no one selling tickets, no homeless people…it was just so quaint. It was an adorable piece of Americana. It was super clean and well taken care of.  I was only there for 5 hours, but I would love to go again….hint hint

So even though we got to stop in one of my dream destinations, the main event was Lititz.   As some of you may know, Lititz is Amish country, so we had a great time experiencing the culture. It was also really funny because this was Ben’s first time in Amish country (he’s from California), so he wasn’t used to the culture and had a lot of observations.  He didnt realize that amish lived right in the middle of regular people — living their lives.  “Did you?” In my opinion some of his comments should be put on t-shirts and sold at the tourist center. Some of the top musings included:

-“Did you see that guys beard? I feel like the Amish and Orthodox Jews would really get along… visually.”

-“Why don’t they just ride the horses [as opposed to riding in the buggy]?”

-“Is that how you tell how well-off an Amish family is? By how many buggies they have?”

-“Do they have buggy races? They must.”

-“At least mean and women both wear different outfits.  Like they both commit.”

(As two men pass and wave to each other) “They probably all know each other.”


Taking pics on stealth mode (you’re not supposed to photograph the Amish)


You go to West Virginia once and you think that all small town america is just drugged out then you come to lancaster and its flourishing small town America.

While in Lititz, we stayed at an adorable bed and breakfast, complete with Amish garb that came along with the room. Did you know they have Amish electricians?


Hello, everyone, meet Rachel.


So of course, I just had to try on the Amish outfit. You know how sometimes you wear the clothes, but other times the clothes wear you? Well, I’m not sure exactly what happened here, but I definitely became another person when I put in on. My friends, I’d like to introduce you to Amish Sam, also known as Rachel.

Ben also tried on some of the men’s Amish-wear and he transformed into Ezekiel.





So while Rachel and Ezekiel continued on their journey through Amish country (“aw look at that, your sticker book.  Welllll, thats not what I call it.”), they indulged in the Amish goods throughout the town. For example, they had homemade, fermented root beer (which is honestly as disgusting as it sounds). They also ate their weight in baked goods, because the Amish know their pastries. We–I mean Ezekiel and Rachel– stopped at every roadside bakery that they encountered. They devoured regular whoopie pies, chocolate chip whoopie pies, shoofly pies, chocolate shoofly pies…the list goes on.

When we assumed our normal identities, we decided to bore ourselves at the Landis Valley Farm museum; however, although the exhibits were a snooze fest, we got to take a private buggy ride at the end, which was actually very cool.

Another highlight was being able to see all the cool animals that inhabit this part of town. There were wolfhounds, clydesdale horses, and baby goats. There were also actual wolves, which was awesome to see.

We visited a wolf sanctuary where we learned that wolves would make terrible pets, confirming our previously held suspicions. We also learned some pretty interesting facts, besides that they make bad pets, like that wolves can be trained to smell bladder cancer in other animals and in humans. Another thing is that other pack members will lick the pack leader’s face in order to make him howl (so that the rest of them can howl).

Because we were so impressed with the buggy ride we took previously, we decided to check out other buggies. We also were looking for houses with no lights who looked like they might be using candles.  One night we spent time looking for tricked out buggies that could’ve been on the Amish version of Pimp My Ride, but unfortunately we didn’t see any. But we did stop for baked goods along the way and talked about brand equity side of the road stand, so the mission wasn’t a complete flop.  

The trip was definitely a success, and even if you don’t want to assimilate and become a Rachel or an Ezekiel, I would definitely recommend taking a trip to Amish country, if only to eat a buggy’s load of whoopie pies.


Yell if you need anything.
-Rachel.. I mean, ‘mi.

One Love, Much Love

15 Nov

So I’d like to change the pace a little bit for this blog post, as I’d like to dedicate it to my Momma in Jamaica who passed not too long after I made this trip. As many of you know, I was in the Peace Corps (if you didn’t know, well, then, now you do), and was hosted by this amazing family who I go back to visit as often as I can. This last time in Jamaica, I went to take care of Momma, who had been sick for a while, so I visited the family house to help out as things were getting worse.



RIP Momma.


The beginning of the journey was sweet. I met Tyra (my sister, 23) and my 6-year-old godson (Tyra’s son), OJ (September 21, 2011 and, at 6 years old I really like him) near the airport in Montego Bay.  It was beyond great to see them! But then, within the first hour of our journey to the house, my rental car succumbed to the horrendous potholes in the middle of the road, which…based on the quality of the road, I guess was inevitable. With a popped tyre, we ended up on the side of the road next to another car who had met the same fate as we did. The other guy who was fixing his tyre was kind enough to fix mine…I thought it was hilarious (and very Jamaican) that, as he was fixing my tyre, instead of complaining about the road quality and how the potholes should be filled, he talked about opening up a tyre repair shop on the side of the road next to the potholes. Funny, but I’m also not saying I wouldn’t invest.

With the tyre fixed (reminder to myself: it’s so cheap to fix cars in Jamaica), we hopped back on the road, but the potholes weren’t the only treacherous aspect of driving here. The roads were insane, and I kept having to remind myself to drive on the left side. It took double the amount of time to get to Elim that it would have on a bus.  Meanwhile, in the backseat, Tyra was changing a baby’s diaper… I can confidently say that’s the first time time that that has ever happened to me.  Here’s to new experiences.


Look at my G-d son repping the Pittsburgh Steelers!  (Oh my gosh, is this what people feel like when they post photos of their own children??)


We finally arrived on the dirt road at the house in Elim, and I had a mix of emotions. Momma wasn’t there as she was still in the hospital at Back River, but it was great to see the yard and the family again.  It was a mix of emotions and everyone moved over to make space for me in the three room house. When I used the outdoor bathroom there was the constant sound of running water and I could only find one shower shoe, so whenever I went, I hopped around on one foot. I started referring to myself as “one-footed Sam.”

Everyone slept two people to one bed (minimum).  I was sharing with OJ, whom I love but — bless his heart — he snores.  And it was hot and stagnant in the house, I needed air so I let him lay and went to get a better rest in my car.  I cleaned my feet – which were covered in dirt – the only way I could, with my other foot (…which was equally dirty).  But sleeping in my rental car was a blessing in disguise, it provided me with an extra level of comfort. I had privacy; it was clean; I could roll the windows down. The night sky was amazing, and I had never seen it look bigger or brighter.   It was such a clear night and the sky was covered in twinkling stars! I loved Elim.

The next day, I remembered some more things I love about Jamaica — besides the language, the night sky, and my family — the beauty of the people.  I went with Tyra and OJ to see OJ’s dad. It was the first time OJ had seen his dad in years.  His dad, who shares exactly the same name he does, Oral Amardae Andre Morgan (junior), or Oral Morgan, or Oral Junior (OJ), is now with another woman who was unexpectedly at the house that day.  I braced myself for hostility and awkwardness, but Tyra and the “other woman” got along great and bonded over Tyra’s new baby (that she has with another man). It reminded me of how much Jamaicans seem to love children, and their love for the baby had overcome a potentially awkward situation.


Is my skin always this reflective?
But also…family  ❤ Love these people.



At a cook shop in Santa Cruz, picking up fried chicken for dinner.


I think about Elim so much and am always touched by the people when I go back. After all, it is people who carbonate an experience.  I made sure to find time to walk around my community and visit members of Landlease and New Town, including Pooh, who I love to see every time I go back.  She was the most loyal member of my exercise club which met at 5:30am during the week in order to beat the heat.

Five years ago, when my Peace Corps service was coming to a close, I had given most people in my community who I was close with a departing, tangible photo of us together and wrote a note on the back. When I came back this time, some of the people showed me that they had kept their pictures all this time.


A picture I had given her 5 years ago, still in mint condition. Jamaican me cry.



Paulette and Marvette.




Visiting Bumpy in Blue Fields (Patrick’s host mom).



I loved being back, but this time it was a bittersweet trip. It was hard to say goodbye to Momma, especially since she passed not too long after I returned to the states. She’ll always be in my heart, and I can’t wait to go back to see the rest of the family again (which… is happening soon). Stay tuned for a new Jamaica blog, folks.

I asked Tyra before this upcoming trip if OJ is still so sweet and she said “Yes. Maybe sweeter”.  AWWWW!!!

All the love, ‘mi soon come.
Aunty Sam

Wild and Wonderful

9 Nov

Throwback Thursday…

After the extraordinary trip I took with my lovely parents (read all about it here), we got semi-stranded in Reykjavik for a bit. There were a ton of employees quitting (going on strike?) at the Tel Aviv airport, and thus the Travi were forced to spend two nights in Iceland before flying back to the US.   I, on the other hand, only had to spent one night in Iceland with my parents, and then realized that our travel “woes” were the perfect excuse to get re-routed and fly directly into NYC where I had plans to see Turbulence!  No, not turbulence as in I want to feel like my life is in danger while the plane tries not to disassemble in mid-air, but Turbulence as in the off-Broadway show Molly was performing in! I had been planning on taking a megabus from Pittsburgh but this was a way better option.

I made it to NYC (such a great place) and Molly and her friends — the now newlyweds — Steph and Michael (shoutout!) took us for amazing Italian food that I still dream about — it was unbelievably delicious.  And we got to sleep in Long Island at their gorgeous home ❤

The next day, Molly and I met up with Monica and decided to get some cookie dough in the form of ice cream. Let me be clear– not cookie dough ice cream, but just scoops of cookie dough. It wasn’t as good as it sounds, we ended up dashing some of it away.  But that night I saw my first (of two) Turbulence performances and Molly and co. did a spectacular job!

The next day we walked around the city with Kat and decided to go to the park (You know what Kat always says, “One is fun, see the fun.”  but Sammi says, “One at a time.”).  We spend the day relaxing and found the impossible burger to eat. As we walked around, we stopped in Central Park under a tunnel that’s known for its echoing capabilities, and Molly and Kat harmonized to gorgeous songs from their previous show. It was like a private concert featuring two angels.

While in New York, I was also able to catch up with the one and only Laura Cat and I had the pleasure of meeting Katie (I want to say her last name so badly but I won’t!), who I fell in love with almost instantaneously. It happened one afternoon…we all went to the Whole Foods in Central Park, and we were overwhelmed at how large and bustling the store was.  We took deep breaths and spent time to making fun food-based decisions and trying out free samples. There was a certain drink that had different flavors, and of course, the people handing out the samples only give you like a single drop of liquid in the cup. So we each picked up a cup with different flavors. We decided to each take a quick sip of a flavor and pass the cups around so we would  all get a taste of each. My girl Molly (always) and now Katie were both so quick and willing to share with me, a complete stranger at that point, that I knew we were destined. 

As we spent the day being playful and having the best time (I even got to go see her apartment) we decided, you know who should know about our fun times? Siri. Siri should know that we’re having a blast, and we were positive that she would care to know that things were going well so Katie told her often.



Introducing….Katie!!!!!! ALL the heart eyes.


That night, after the second of Molly’s shows that I got the pleasure of seeing, I got on an overnight bus to Pittsburgh.



Best time of year in one of America’s best cities.


I got in that next morning and dashed in to take a shower at my lovely apartment. Oh, how I would’ve just loved to stay put and take a nap, spend some time lounging around, sleep in my own bed…you know, the basics of coming home. But I am a trooper, and memories don’t happen in those moments.  And when Ben wanted to go on a weekend getaway to West Virginia, I of course said yes. So after I showered, I picked up Ben, and we headed to the Wild and Wonderful state.


The West Virginia Wild.



The West Virginia Wonderful.


Once we made it to West Virginia, we went to the visitor’s center to get some information about the state and all it has to offer. The woman working at the center was very…shall I say, open about giving us info. She told us a little bit about the sights, about how the residents of West Virginia are inbred and have a low IQ, which is why it’s difficult to teach them proper English, and last but never least, about how the state is just oversaturated with drug use. In fact, there was a heroin dealer outside the door just then. Definitely wild.

After receiving all of that info, Ben and I decided to go on a few hikes, pick some apples (as many as we could), and stay as far away from people as possible. There were beautiful spots and, despite coming off of a whirlwind, international trip, I’m glad we went. The trees were changing, it was a beautiful weekend and a stunning time of year! We stayed in a cabin.  


America, the beautiful.


However, I will say that when we got back to Pennsylvania, not even Pittsburgh, it felt like we were coming back to civilization, a developed, booming metropolis which is hilarious because that’s not how I would have described Pennsylvania before this trip.


Picking some red, delicious apples. But not Red Delicious apples.


When we got back to Pittsburgh, I was more than happy to resume my life hanging out in my apartment and with friends, enjoying the city that I absolutely adore, which included soaking in all the beautiful scenery that comes with a Pittsburgh fall.


I mean, honestly!



View from outside the dream flat.



Playing tennis (we love tennis!) near the dream flat.


The fall also included more of the Pittsburgh Speaker Series and more friends. You can imagine how ecstatic I was when Katie, Helen’s “new friend, good friend” told me about how her old friends, good friends Alex and Emily who had just moved to Pittsburgh. So of course, that meant that I got to meet them! ❤

And Arcade Comedy Theater had their new theatre’s opening party! It was very memorable.





We’re fans.


Also during late fall, I helped Andrew and Brian celebrate their one-year anniversary (*insert one years worth of heart-eye emojis here*). During their anniversary dranks, where I ordered a light beer, but it came in a light glass instead, I decided to overshare about how much I love getting the last bits of toothpaste out of the tube. Like I will cut open the tube and scrape the rest of the toothpaste out.

Funny enough, even though it was their anniversary (and Brian birthday!), I was the one that recieved gifts. A few days later several people from that evening bought me brand new tubes of toothpaste and new methods of extracting every. last. drop.  Thanks you guys!!!


I encourage everyone to get friends who give toothpaste as gifts; they’re good listeners, practical and funny. And lastly, I encourage you to always, always let Siri know when you’re having a good time.

Siri, I’m having so much fun.